Birmingham Roundhouse refurbished


A few years ago now Other Half and I walked along a part of Birmingham’s canal network we’d never explored before. The area was, roughly speaking, at the back of the National Indoor Arena and was full of canal history and a jumble of fascinating old buildings and gleaming office blocks. One of the former, which we only saw the back of, was really intriguing, because it seemed to be circular. There was no indication what it was, so I took a photo (above), made a mental note to look it up, and then forgot about it.

Last week our new National Trust magazine turned up, and there on one of the news pages was a snippet about the Birmingham Roundhouse, which the Trust and the Canal & River Trust are jointly refurbishing. It was built in 1874 and apparently used as stables and a store for the city’s lamplighters and ‘public works department’, presumably in the days when all lamps were gas, and when horses and carts would have been needed for workmen to get around.

The plan is to turn it into a hub for the canal network, including a café, offices and community space. It sounds terrific and we’re looking forward to visiting once the work is complete. There’s more details on the National Trust webpage; they’re calling for volunteers to help with the work, so if you’re in the Birmingham area and interested in heritage, why not get in touch?

Calling all Line of Duty fans

lineofdutyGreat news for fans of Line of Duty, the long-running BBC drama about the police anti-corruption unit AC-12: season 6 has been commissioned and is in the very early stages of production, as confirmed by this article in the Radio Times online.

Since they haven’t even started filming yet there’s no word on when it will be shown but it could be later this year, or early 2021 at the latest.

Every series so far has come with a massive kick in the pants, so I can’t wait to find out whether H has really been caught and whether DCI Hastings is truly innocent, or the best actor this side of the Oscars. How about you?

Giri/Haji review


We’ve been watching this series on catch-up for the last few weeks, and finally finished it the other day. And I loved it so much I just had to sit down and dash off a review to tell everyone how good it was, and why.

I’m delighted to say that review has now been posted over at Punk Noir magazine so you can see for yourself what I loved about the series.

The only niggle I forgot to mention in my post was an occasional tendency for the characters to be too trusting of each other. There were a couple of examples of near-strangers telling each other their entire life histories, and one of a criminal wildly incriminating himself to a foreign police officer, neither of which I could see happening in real life.

But apart from that (and the ballet, you’ll have to read the blog post to find out about that!) the series was an absolute gem, and I hope my review helps other people track it down and enjoy it too.

Even more dumb criminals

A short piece from the BBC live news feed for Cumbria yesterday, which I’ll reproduce in full as it’s hard to link to.

“A burglar caught breaking into a caravan parked outside its owner’s home was apprehended after he became entangled in brambles as he tried to escape, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Steven Jordan, 43, of Borland Avenue in Carlisle, admitted burglary and was said to have a lengthy record.

Jeff Smith, mitigating, said Jordan had not set out to offend, but had been escaping an attack by people trying to recover a drugs debt when he broke into the caravan outside a house in Aglionby.

Judge Nicholas Barker jailed him for 14 months.”

I guess my only comment is, if you’re going to do a runner, maybe watch out for those prickly bramble bushes!

More dumb criminals…

1500…in Southampton, this time. This one involves a chap who was waving a sawn-off shotgun around in an underpass in the city, then dropped the gun, and a mobile phone, and took off his trainers and left those behind as well. When the police found him soon afterwards, wandering about with no shoes on, it didn’t take them long to add two and two and arrest him for firearms offences.

You can read about the story on the BBC website here. But the one thing it doesn’t explain is why he took off his trainers in the first place. Story writers, this is your starter for ten…

A Crime in My Stockings #10: Aidan Thorn

rivalsonsAnd last but very much not least in my little Christmas feature, here’s Aidan Thorn on the book he’d like in his stocking. Aidan is a firm fixture on the Brit-Grit scene and like me he cut his noir-writing teeth at Byker Books. His novel ‘Rival Sons‘, about the ripples that spread when a man returns home, is available now.

“Just one book for Christmas? That’s not a Christmas I recognise, there are so many I want this year. It’s been a great 12 months from the small press publishers again and so my list includes a good number of books this year. But, if I was to ask for just one it would have to be Matt Phillips’ ‘You Must Have a Death Wish‘ from the incredible Fahrenheit 13. Matt Phillips is my favourite writer; his ‘Know me from Smoke’ is my favourite book, everything Matt writes is brilliant, and the release of his latest book has me very excited.”

And that’s it from my little Christmas feature this year. Thanks so much to all the authors who took the time out from busy schedules to help make it such fun. I’ll be back in the new year but until then I hope everyone has a fantastic break and finds lots of new crime books to enjoy!

A Crime in My Stockings #9: Noelle Holten

deadinsideNoelle is well known to many crime writers for her tireless work promoting their books and she’s recently had her own first crime novel, Dead Inside, published. With so many books to choose from, which one would she have in her stocking on Christmas morning? Here’s what she says:

“I am in quite a fortunate position where I am often sent books or if I want I book, I can buy it – but if I had to choose a book to wake up to on Christmas morning? It would have to be Steph Broadribb’s DEEP DARK NIGHT. Published by Orenda, this is the latest in the Lori Anderson series and out in ebook on January 5th. I love this series – Lori Anderson is one #kickass female protagonist and each story gets better as the series progresses.”

A Crime in My Stockings #8: Jackie Baldwin

Avenge-the-DeadJackie Baldwin writes twisty crime thrillers set in the darker corners of her native Scotland, and her new book ‘Avenge the Dead’ is due for publication in February 2020. Here’s what she would choose for her own Christmas stocking, and why:

“Due to the title of this feature, Tess, I thought I’d better read the small print…just in case!

It’s always tortuous having to pick just one book from so many wonderful reads but the stand out title for me is ‘The Holiday’ by T.M. Logan. Four best friends holiday together in a luxury villa with their husbands and children. What could possibly go wrong? A lot. It is clear from the first page that something bad is going to happen. Kate suspects that one of her best friends is betraying her by having an affair with her husband. She just doesn’t know which one?

The tension cranks up relentlessly and doesn’t let go until the shattering climax. Meals were burnt and washing piled up because I simply could not put this book down. It possessed me from start to finish. In fact it might be a little dangerous to have it in my stocking as I have a huge Christmas dinner to cook!

A Crime in My Stockings #7: Matt Phillips

deathwishNext to the (Christmas) party is noir writer Matt Phillips, whose latest book You Must Have a Death Wish, about a hustler-turned-hitman (and with an eye-catchingly macabre cover), is published by crime specialists Fahrenheit 13.  Here’s Matt’s own choice of Christmas pressie:

“Well, this is a hell of a question. Here’s my answer: Earlier this year I read a brilliant short novel called Man Standing Behind. It’s written by a guy named Pablo D’Stair and published by All Due Respect Books. I gotta say––this is the best book I’ve read all year. And it just so happens that the genius publisher at ADR––writer/editor Chris Rhatigan––acquired five more books from D’Stair, and they’re coming out next year. So, if I could have one book in my Christmas stocking, it’d be the first book in the Trevor English series by Pablo D’Stair, This Letter from Norman Court.

Are you listening, Santa? I hope so…”

A Crime in My Stockings #6: Margot Kinberg

downfallThe next contributor to my little Christmas quiz is queen of crime Margot Kinberg. Not of committing it, I hasten to add, but of reading, reviewing, writing and just generally knowing about crime fiction. You can find Margot’s latest book, ‘Downfall’, on Kindle here. And here’s the book she picked:

“There are so many good crime novels out there that it’s very hard to choose just one. But, let’s not get greedy; any crime fiction fan knows where greed tends to lead… If I could have just one crime novel this holiday season, I think I would choose J.M. Green’s Good Money.

There are a few reasons I’d want that one in particular. One is that it features an interesting protagonist. Stella Hardy is a middle-aged social worker – one of ‘the rest of us.’ She has her own past, but that doesn’t stop her wanting justice when one of her clients is murdered. Her character has some depth, and I like that in a protagonist. Another reason is the setting. The story takes place in Melbourne, which I’ve always wanted to visit (I will get there someday), and where a lot of other great crime novels take place. The final reason I want to read this is that it was recommended to me by a friend who’s since passed. She never steered me wrong, and I only wish I’d read this while she was alive, so we could talk about it. I’d like to remember her by reading it now.

So there you have it: my ‘wish list’ novel. Thanks again for including me in this very special feature!

A Crime in My Stockings #5: Graham Wynd

LOVE-IS-A-GRIFT-Front-web-190x300I’m dashing in from the midst of Christmas preparations (wot, more shopping? surely not) to post the latest stocking-filler crime suggestion, this time from master of noir Graham Wynd. Graham’s latest book ‘Love is a Grift‘, a collection of noir stories featuring the ultimate femme fatale, is available from Fox Spirit Books.

“When the Krampus leaves me a gift under the Yule tree, I hope it may be the completed-just-before-she-passed historical crime novel by Toni Morrison. It tells the tale of a family of grifters, inspired by the example of the Cercle Harmonique to take up Spiritualism, but employing it in a more profitable direction — that is to say, larcenous. Their plans to fleece people as part of roving carnival circuit in the midwest take an unexpected turn when the youngest of the family, Shalimar, turns out to have a genuine gift. She sees dead people in a country still reeling from the carnage of the Civil War. When some spiritualist suffragettes from New York get involved, that’s when things really go wild. They don’t have a ghost of a chance.

I may have only dreamed this book. So I guess I will console myself with watching the adaptation of Megan Abbott’s DARE ME and tapping my foot waiting for Paul D. Brazill’s MAN OF THE WORLD in April. But I have a big TBR pile to sort me until then.”

A Crime in My Stockings #4: Tess Makovesky

GT v5Don’t worry, there are still plenty of other authors to feature on this little series, but I thought perhaps it was time I put my money where my mouth is. So here’s my own reply – and if you fancy having a look at my noir romp ‘Gravy Train‘ while you’re at it then thank you!

The book I’d most like in my Christmas stocking is a brand new noir novel from Joel Lane, because I absolutely love his ‘From Blue to Black’ and because it would mean he was here and writing books again. Sadly that isn’t going to happen (he died in 2013) so I have to choose a real, genuine, actual book instead. Since I really enjoyed ‘The Chalk Man’ by C J Tudor recently, I’m going for ‘The Hiding Place’ by the same author – it sounds every bit as good.